UML modelling with fridge-magnets

Whiteboards are a great UML case tool. They help to make modelling a social activity. They help to emphasize that the act of modelling and the understanding it produces is just as valuable as the resulting model. The wipeability of whiteboards is also a great feature. It encourages modification and experimentation.

Whiteboards are not so good when you want to rearranging a diagram though. But... it occurred to me that if the whiteboard is magnetic then fridge-magnet-style UML-shapes might help. So I found a company that sells magnetic sheet and paid a bit extra to have it coated with a dry-wipe surface. The first sample arrived today and I've made my first prototypes. I cut out two sizes of rectangles and edged them with a permanent marker. Here's one of the larger ones (the background is a tablecloth not wallpaper!)

Now simply stick them on the whiteboard - they stick to each other of course:

Here's the big rectangles vertically in 3-section class format:

And horizontally for packages (just draw on the top-left tab):

Here's a 1-section only class diagram overview made from the smaller rectangles:

And just for Pete Goodliffe here's a Booch cloud:

I'm also going to cut out some ellipses for use-cases/scenarios and some rounded rectangles (roundtangles) for activities/states.


  1. "So I found a company that sells magnetic sheet and paid a bit extra to have it coated with a dry-wipe surface"

    What was the company?
    How much did you pay?

  2. The company is called Eclipse Magnets (UK). Their phone number is 0114 225 0600
    I paid about £60 for a 5m x 60cm roll, which is loads. If you're going to the ACCU conference I'd be happy to give you some as a sample.

  3. Thanks Jon,

    I posted here as I thought others would benefit to.
    We called them and it all checks out. We'll be ordering some for use in the office here. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Or use index cards with magnets stuck to the back of them (or just lay them out on a big table):

  5. I've just cut a small square from the roll and sellotaped it to an index card to try it. Simple and effective. Thanks James.

  6. What's the advantage of the index cards over the dry wipe surface?

  7. You could use different coloured index cards for one I guess.

  8. /me now wonders if I can ordered dry-wipe surfaced magnets of different colours